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My Tool Collection, Part 2: The Preston 1393s And Its Clone…

March 26, 2015

Ad text for the 1393s from the 1909 Preston Tool Catalog (reprinted by Astragal Press)

Ad text for the 1393s from the 1909 Preston Tool Catalog (reprinted by Astragal Press)

Like most things in life, it’s best to start at the beginning, so that’s how I’ll handle the first real post of my beading tool collection (where I don’t go off on other woodworkers; sorry about that, tool hoarders; still friends, right?). And like most of my favourite tools, my beading tool collection begins with Patrick Leach…

Sometimes I wonder where I would be financially if I’d never heard of the man from Massachusetts or his website. But then I would have to wonder where I would be spiritually, as well, so I don’t wonder about it too much, if I can help it. He and I chat fairly frequently now, in fact, and some of our conversations still begin with me asking, “Is this still available?”

Anyway, early in 2009, on the first Monday of March, I was scanning the latest Tool List mailing and the description of a Preston tool jumped out at me. I looked at the image before me and was enthralled, to say the least, by the small japanned tool on the screen. That was possibly the first time I’d ever contacted Patrick, asking if something was still available, come to think of it.

The 1393s as I first saw it in the monthly Tool List, along with some foreshadowing...

The 1393s as I first saw it in the monthly Tool List, along with some foreshadowing…

A short while later, I opened a package from MA and had an instant connection with this small, pelvis-shaped beading tool with one lone cutter. It felt perfect in my hands and I couldn’t wait to try it out on a piece of wood to see what the profile looked like. With just a quick flattening of the two faces of the cutter, it started working again, probably just as well as it had 100 years earlier.

The venerable Preston 1393s with complex profile completed in walnut...

The venerable Preston 1393s with complex profile completed in walnut…

Recently, I had a brief chat with someone who said they could duplicate the six cutters that originally came with the 1393s. He also mentioned being able to cast bronze copies of the tool, as well. I’m not sure about the bronze copies (unless enough of you are interested in such a thing), but I am definitely going to talk to him about duplicating the cutters, as displayed in the Preston Tool Catalogue from 1909 (reprinted by Astragal press and available from Tools For Working Wood).

Ad image for the 1393s and the cutters that came with it from the reprint of the 1909 catalogue.

Ad image for the 1393s and the cutters that came with it from the reprint of the 1909 catalogue.

The one original cutter that was in the tool when I bought it is still my favourite profile ever made off of a beading tool. But I still wouldn’t mind having the others, to see how useful they are.


Something else happened when I held that tool for the first time, though. It triggered a memory, a thought, about a similar looking tool I’d seen before. It was slightly different – bronze, instead of japanned cast iron – but the shape of it was pretty much the same. I wondered about it for days without coming up with anything, so I started digging through my file folders of ideas and wants and woodworking things that interested me (er… doesn’t everyone have file folders like this?) and found it! It was part of a page off a website (that did not contain the product numbers, unfortunately) I’d printed out for a wish list of sorts. Turns out it was a tool sold by Woodcraft; they had it listed as a Bronze Beading Tool and indicated it was a copy of an old tool they had in their collection. Oh, I know what THAT tool is now! Obviously this obsession has been welling up inside me for some time.

Ad image for the Woodcraft Bronze Beading Tool, circa 2004.

Ad image for the Woodcraft Bronze Beading Tool, circa 2004.

I jumped on-line to see if they still had it listed. They didn’t. (They’d stopped selling it back in 2004, more than five years earlier.) I did a quick search on my favourite auction site, with no positive results, but I didn’t let that stop me.

I then used my Google-fu to start looking for any reference of it on-line. My Google-fu was good! Nowadays, you can search website archives on, but I didn’t have that option back then. Fortunately for me, Woodcraft did not delete their old webpages; they just unlinked them from their main website. As a result, I was able to get to the original webpage and locate the Item Number for that tool as well as the replacement cutters they sold for it.

I took that information and sent a message to Woodcraft Customer Service to see if they could check inventory at all of their stores for the two items, hoping by some chance of luck one of them might still have it in stock.

My luck stayed with me. Sam, from Woodcraft Tech, responded a few hours later, indicating he’d found the bronze beading tool listed in the inventory at two stores. What’s more, he said he’d found two other stores that indicated they had the replacement cutters in their inventory.
I thanked Sam for his time (I still remember his name, obviously, to this day) and called those stores right away. Was it my good fortune that all four stores had the item in question in their inventory? Or was it my bad luck? My pocketbook and I would give you different answers.

I checked my woodworking funds and saw I could just swing it, so… I bought all four items. Within a few weeks (one of the items came from Hawaii), I had two brand new bronze beading tools and two sets of replacement cutters, all in their original packaging.

The Woodcraft Bronze Beading Tool, showing both fences, with a single bead profile made in African mahogany.

The Woodcraft Bronze Beading Tool, showing both fences, with a single bead profile made in African mahogany.

The beading tool bug had bitten me. Probably several times, even.

To Be Continued… in Part Three, where my woodworking fund’s worst nightmare came true when I met Patrick Leach in person at Woodworking In America 2010. I remember this event quite clearly because it was just three months after my son was born and I’d spent most of the three days in complete disbelief that my wife let me go in the first place. There, Mr. Leach himself put my third beading tool straight into my hand…


Post Script: Oh, before anyone asks, I no longer have two complete sets of the Woodcraft bronze beading tool. As I said before, I’m a collector, not a hoarder. I sold one of the sets to a friend of mine, for what I paid for the tools plus shipping. I have it on pretty good faith that Mike will both use and take care of these tools, so I feel no regrets in getting them into someone else’s hands.

My Tool Collection, Part 1: Collecting vs. Hoarding

February 27, 2015

Windsor Type 1, Pat 1885, unused condition

Windsor Type 1, Pat 1885, unused condition

My woodworking journey is very personal to me. I understand that every other woodworker feels the same way about their own journey, so I try to keep the idea in mind when I hear or see other woodworkers talk/post about theirs. It’s challenging, though, when I see someone who just… buys tools. They don’t have any plans to do anything with them but put them in buckets or boxes in their basement. They buy them because they are woodworkers and people expect them to be “tool collectors”, as well, I suppose.

I don’t really think of this as collecting; it’s more like hoarding.


Many years ago, at my really real job, I was asked to document a dialog box in one of the applications we use in-house. The dialog box allowed you to create complex search functions and save them. But then you could also share those saved search functions with other employees, so they didn’t have to take the time to create them, as well! Nice, right? The function had an appropriately-titled button called “Share”. Then they added another button, called “Unshare”, to make the saved search unavailable to anyone else.

I took issue with that last button label. Unshare isn’t a bleedin’ word, is it? Look, even my MS Word Spell Check knows that! So… I may have modified the label to something more appropriate. What is the opposite of “to share”? Anyone?

That’s right. Hoard. I created a Hoard button. And I gave it some appropriate single line help, too. “Selfishly retrieves your saved search, allowing nobody else to use it.”

Then something or other came up and I possibly forgot to change it back to what it should be. The next day, after the software build, I got a phone call from Bev in QA who wanted to talk about one of the button labels in the Saved Search dialog box…



Anyway, my point here is that hoarding isn’t a good thing (nor is making “Hoard” buttons, apparently). I think collections should have some purpose other than to just be a large gathering of tools that aren’t going to see the light of day until your kids are going through all of the boxes in your shop to label them for an estate sale, wondering what on earth you were doing with 15 Stanley No. 5 bench planes. They should be informative or educational or… preserving of some type of tool that may be otherwise lost. Besides, wouldn’t those tools better serve us by being used? Think of all the people who could have furthered the craft of woodworking if only someone had put a properly tuned Number 5 in their hands and let them experience that first shaving!

Look, I’m not saying all collecting is bad. There is certainly good collecting. And I know several people who are excellent collectors. But I think I see a significantly greater number of people who are not collecting, but hoarding. I suppose one could argue that the biggest purpose of a collection is the pleasure of gathering and collecting and, thus, it always meets the requirement of “doing something”, at least to the person gathering them together. You can make that argument, but… that doesn’t mean I’ll agree with it.

With that in mind, with the idea that a collection should be MORE than an assembly of tools of a certain type or disposition, I’ve decided to start discussing my collection of beading tools, to share what I’ve learned, to open you up to using a tool you might not have considered before, to expanding your realm of woodworking. If you aren’t really interested in what I collect, that’s cool; we’re all in this for different reasons and it takes a lot more than that to hurt my feelings. Feel free to skip over any future blog posts that start out, “My Tool Collection…”.

Preston 1396 and 1393s

Preston 1396 (top) and 1393s (bottom)

But maybe you’re intrigued by it. Maybe you collect them, as well (not likely, I know)! Maybe you have some information about certain beading tools that I don’t have and want to share it with me. Maybe you have a similar collection and appreciate some of the information I’ve gathered over the years! Or maybe you want to follow me down the rabbit hole as I learn about my own collection, just to see how far it takes me.

It’s a rather small collection, honestly, not even 20 tools at the moment, and I don’t see it expanding too much more in the future. But that is absolutely intentional, to be sure. I don’t want a workshop so stuffed with tools I won’t ever use that I can’t comfortably do my woodworking. I want to collect something that has some innate interest to me, that stirs some suppressed desire in me to have an interest in something mundane and long forgotten by most people. I want to collect something that I’ll also use, thus getting a double dose of enjoyment from them. And I want to collect something that doesn’t take up a huge amount of space.

So when I first saw the beading tool that started me down this path, and it immediately drew me in and made me want to use it and find out more about it, and it was very small, I knew I was on to something. I bought it on a whim (an expensive whim, to be sure) and, as I thought I would, made an instant connection with it when I pulled it out of the shipping box. As a bonus, not only was the tool small, but I figured there probably weren’t a lot of different beading tools made over the years, so my collection would be quite manageable.

What I don’t want this series of blog posts to become is something that could be labeled, “A History Of Beading Tools”. If it starts getting to be like that, I trust you’ll let me know, yah?

The venerable Preston 1393s with complex profile...

The venerable Preston 1393s with complex profile…

This is just the introductory post to my collection. The next post will begin with an example from Edward Preston and his unfathomable numbering system, the 1393s beading scraper. Until then!



PS. Apologies for the pause in blog updates the last few weeks. I finally got into Instagram (see link at top right) and found it to be a most agreeable social media tool! It sucked me in for a time, but I still love the longer written and multiple-picture format of a blog, so I’m trying to balance the two. I also had another opportunity come up that will push me into completely new woodworking territory. It is a little daunting, a little frightening, to be sure. But it will expand my realm of woodworking and make me a better woodworker for it. And I think I’m up for the task, though it may take up quite a bit of my time for the next two months. I’ll be happy to discuss at a future date, but would like to keep under wraps for the time being.

PPS. Oh, and don’t think I’ve forgotten about those tools I discussed last time. They are scrapers; rosewood handled scrapers. Most recently used for scraping paint in many cases, but originally used in the printing industry to scrape screens. I had an elderly retired woman who worked in the printing industry for 40 years confirm my assertion. She said I had a lovely gathering of rosewood handled screen scrapers.

Rosewood handled scrapers...

Rosewood handled scrapers…

Super Workshop Sunday

February 2, 2015

Yesterday on social media, I read a great post by Derek Olson about why he wasn’t going to be watching any major sporting events later in the day, but instead would be in the workshop making stuff and then talking about it on social media. I did not watch the big game last night, either. I gave my reason in a response to him; thought you might want to hear it, as well.

One time I was sitting down to watch the Super Bowl with some friends of mine when my cell phone rang. I excused myself, went into the kitchen, and proceeded to talk to a girl for almost the entire game.

When I finally sat back down, there were about five minutes left in the fourth quarter. My friend turned to me and said, “That better have been one special girl.”

She’s upstairs right now, taking a nap with our son. I haven’t watched a Super Bowl in 12 years. There are just more important things to do, I guess, like talk to the girl you’re going to marry. Or talk to your wife. Of course, when she’s napping…

I’m off to the shop. Enjoy your time in yours, Derek.

And off to the shop I went. I’m working out a sticking point in my latest project, so in the mean time I decided to spend some time cleaning up the rosewood handles on a few old tools I’ve picked up over the years. I found my first one at an estate sale about three years ago for a crazy cheap price and have kept my eyes out for them ever since. I’m up to four or five of them now. With loving care, some 0000 steel wool, and a bit of Kramer’s Antique Restorer, the rosewood now sparkles with swirls of character and the tools gleam with pride, ready to get back to work.

I’ll save pictures of them for my next post. Does anyone want to hazard a guess as to what kind of tools they are in the mean time? Surely the manufacturers of yesteryear must have vastly overestimated our supply of rosewood for it to be used on such a mundane tool…

I also spent some time working on an idea I’ve had rolling around in my head for quite a few years now. It involves bird’s eye maple and one of my favorite trees; the Missouri state tree, in fact – Cornus  Florida L., also known as the flowering dogwood.

While looking at a piece of bird’s eye maple one day, I had the notion that the figured eyes looked a lot like blooms on a flowering dogwood, as seen at a distance. I thought it might be interesting if I could somehow add branches to connect the flowers, maybe even bring the branches to the trunk of a tree. It would be a tremendous amount of work to do on a large scale, but… what about on a smaller scale? Like a little inlay panel on a box?

It stayed in my mind as an idea for a long time. But I finally put it down on wood. I pulled out my very inexpensive pyrography tool and started with a thin strip of figured maple I had left over from an old project…

Not bad for a first attempt...

Not bad for a first attempt…

I possibly need to look into a better pyrography tool. I also need to work on my branch shapes. More importantly, I need to emulate the branches of the dogwood a little better, especially the tertiary branches that connect to the flowers. Drawing branches without a subject is one of the tasks I remember struggling with in my Drawing II class in college, so it’s time to get out the notepad, get some appropriate pictures, and bone up on my branch drawing.

But the first attempt is promising! Next time I’ll tackle a slightly bigger area.

Something I quickly realized while doing this is that it will be necessary to find wood with a certain density of bird’s eye figure in order to get the technique to look right. I’ll have to ponder that, as well, as I scrape up a little money so I can head to one of the local lumber dealers who carries a nice amount of figured maple this next weekend.

It was time well-spent in the shop. I don’t think I missed a thing on TV.


I Knew Right Away These Were Not Like Other Curls

January 30, 2015

Day two for this project is in the books. Ever have one of those days where everything was just… on? Where everything seemed to go smoothly for some reason and things just fell into place? Day two was one of those days. I treasure those days.

On the first day, I got the sides cut to size and the rebates on all four sides of the bottom. My goal for last night was to get the sliding lid fitted.

If you hadn’t noticed, I’m just using ½” poplar from the box store. I’m challenging myself here. It’s pretty easy (my opinion, of course) to take really great wood (figured maple or walnut, reclaimed bog oak, something exotic and dense) and make a box that doesn’t look too bad, even if the design is off or the construction is not clean. If you can sand moderately well and not botch the finish, people tend to focus on the wood instead of the form.

But I want to take plain wood – just something I picked up from the local home center – and make a really good box out of it. Something that draws just as much attention to it, even though it’s just plain ol’ fuzzy poplar.

I buy poplar like I buy pine from the big box stores. Go frequently, dig through the wood, occasionally walk away with a good board or two (but usually empty handed), and stick it in the shop. A few weeks ago, I lucked upon a thin poplar board that was fully quartersawn! Man, it was beautiful and straight as an arrow! I want to find more of THOSE!

What do you call a bunny that won't dance? A square rabbet.

What do you call a bunny that won’t dance? A square rabbet.

It was the perfect contrast I wanted for the lid, so I pulled it out and cut it to length on the miter box and rebated the edges to make it fit the grooves in the sides. Sometimes I struggle with keeping my rebate plane cuts square, so I have to fix them with the rabbeting block plane. But I tried some hand and body position adjustments last night and it seemed to work. These rebates were MUCH better; practically square, even!

Not like other curls...

Not like other curls…

Does anyone else ever feel guilty just putting shavings like these in the shaving bin? They look so… cool! They aren’t like your average shavings. I feel like there is something I should be able to do with these wonderful curls of wood! Let me know if you’ve figured out a way to use them, yah?

Look at that lovely quartersawn grain!

Look at that lovely quartersawn grain!

After that, I used a jack plane to lower the top a bit and even it out with the sides before smoothing (it isn’t long enough to need a jointer plane). Since I don’t use it very much, I don’t mind the weight of my 604 ½ smoothing plane. It’s a beast! But, I can set it very well and I have a great amount of control over it. I don’t usually post pictures of the gossamer shavings, but like I said, I was really in the groove last night…

Poplar isn't fuzzy when your have sharp tools!

Anudda thou… and anudda thou…

Now that I have the box proper all set up, I can work on fitting out the inside and maybe tighten up the miters a little. I have some interesting ideas for it that I’m excited to try out! And, if I have enough time, I might try and do a little inlay, either on the front or on the lid. I picked up a box of pure white holly scraps from Bill Rittner, left over from the holly knob and tote I bought from him, and I’ve been dying to try carving some of it up! Or maybe try something else? Not sure yet.

Making progress!

Making progress!


(Raney, hows about you make me a smoothing plane and I’ll stop with the GD references? Not a bad deal, eh?)

Don’t Forget To Make Stuff!

January 27, 2015

Lately, it seems like a large percentage of my shop time has been spent either trying to work on projects for the shop or restoring hand tools. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy doing these things. I love the feeling I get when I finish a workshop task and I can see that I’m inching closer towards having it finished. And I could get lost in tool restoration, if I’m not careful. Much like working with reclaimed wood, there is a big draw for me in taking an old, abused tool and cleaning it up, getting it back into proper working order so I can use it in my shop.

But I’ve spent so much time focusing on those two aspects of my woodworking that I’ve really neglected the part where I make things! So last night I thought about it for a minute and decided on a project I want to make that has an inherent deadline of about a month, which is good motivation to work on it. I went down into the shop, quickly sketched out an idea of what I wanted, pulled out the tools I need for the first few steps, and got to it!

A very satisfying tool...

A very satisfying tool…

I’m not sure I can use my Record 043 plow plane on a project without taking at least one or two pictures of it. Maybe it has to do with the almost-instant gratification I get when I’m making grooves. Here is a flat board with jointed edges. Five minutes later, here is a flat board with two perfect grooves running parallel to the long edges and a bushel of narrow, thick, curly shavings.

Making room for the lid...

Making room for the lid…

I got to use another one of my favourite tools shortly after that. It is my Disston 12” backsaw I got for a steal and then had Matt Cianci sharpen up for me like a sash saw. If you’ve never used a saw that was sharpened by Matt, then you need to make it a short term goal for the first quarter of 2015. It will change your views on how well a saw can function.

What a Matt Cianci-sharpened saw cut looks like...

What a Matt Cianci-sharpened saw cut looks like…

I don’t know if you can see just how smoothly this saw cuts; hopefully you can. It took two swipes of a block plane to clean this up. To quote Chris Schwarz, “Matt is a wizard.” Indeed he is.

I’m trying to learn how to sharpen my own saws. But I like keeping this one handy and sharpened by Matt so I have something I can use for a reference, to show me what sharp really is.

Hopefully I don’t have to try and explain how good it feels to just go into the shop with a basic plan, pick out some wood, and start working, do I? To many, that can be daunting. But guess what. Your fears about making errant cuts or botching your plane work melt away as you get lost in the action of creating.

If you’ve never done that before, you should. Tonight. Now, even. Go! It’s fine to be afraid. But then go do it anyway. That’s my new motto. That’s kilted woodworking.


Nothin’s Gonna Bring Him Back…

January 9, 2015

He’s gone.

I still have a hard time believing it, but it’s true. Every time I back my car into the garage, I look for it, just out of habit. I’m hoping that will fade with time, that maybe I’ll learn to look out for something else I’ve put in its place, like a cedar potting bench for my wife or… I don’t know, just the back wall?

Because I’m pretty sure I’m not going to replace my table saw.

Enjoy your new home, old Ridgid Tablesaw!

Enjoy your new home, old Ridgid Tablesaw!

But for now there’s just an ugly… gap at the back of my garage. Even the pegboard wall behind where it was and the shelf overhead are both less cluttered. He took all of the blades, the spare zero clearance inserts, the Incra miter gauge… he even took the guard and splitter! (OK, he didn’t take the guard the first time; it was hidden behind the drill press and he didn’t see it, so I had to drop it off for him.)

Except for the table saw, my drill press (which I just have to figure out who to sucker convince into helping me move, because the cast iron base is hea-vy), and an 8” Wallace short bed jointer (I am also selling, if anyone is interested… local pickup only, please), all of my woodworking tools are now in the basement shop. I was tired of going up to the garage to make some cuts and then go back down to the basement to do everything else.

About a year and a half ago, I got the idea to see how long I could go without using the table saw. You might notice that’s about the time I decided to tune up my bandsaw. After a year of successfully not using the tablesaw, I started thinking about just not having it. Last month, I got a wild notion to go ahead and get rid of it. I mentioned it to my younger brother, who is a full-time woodworker in a cabinet shop, to see if he knew of anyone who might be interested in my Ridgid TS3650. As it turned out, he was still using a small bench-top tablesaw at his house, so HE was interested in buying it! Even better!

His shop was closed down the week after Christmas, so he grabbed our dad’s trailer last Monday and made his way up to my house to pick it up while I was at work. Good to his word, he even left the right amount of money on the kitchen counter! Miracles DO happen, people!

Is this the right move for you? I have no idea; it is something you’ll have to decide for yourself. My woodworking is 100% a hobby for me, though, so I have no concerns of speed or batch cutting. And I have absolutely no desire to try my hand at turning a bowl on the tablesaw.

Instead, my concerns are safety with a four year old in the shop, dust in a basement shop with no large dust collection system, not making a lot of noise when I’m working late at night, and not having to walk back and forth between garage and basement shop all the time.

Over the last year, my hand tool skills have drastically improved – especially my sawing.

Cutting to the line...

Cutting to the line…

I certainly have a lot more to learn and improve on, but that’s part of the fun for me. I love seeing my cuts get more accurate, my joinery more precise, my finished faces more smooth.

So far, I don’t have an ounce of seller’s remorse (and, believe me, I know what seller’s remorse is… I still miss my 1995 4-Runner, and I sold that most awesome truck in 2002). This tells me I’ve made the right decision.

I think that’s enough big changes for the year, though. Glad I got that out of the way early on!

Still… I do have a Bosch 1617EVSPK (with a lift base, even) and several dozen 1/2″ bits I haven’t used in at least two years. Hmmm…

In any case, Happy New Year, readers. Be safe. Have fun.


(Apols for the GD reference blog entry title, Raney, but technically I don’t think we came to any resolution on me not using them, did we?)

A Gathering Of Drills…

January 7, 2015

Millers Falls No2 Gear and Pinion Assembly

Millers Falls No2 Gear and Pinion Assembly

Anyone who has been following me on Instagram already knows this, but I’ve been on a hand drill restoration kick for the last week or so. Thus far, they have all been what I call “soft” restorations. That means all I’m doing is breaking them down (in most cases leaving the pinions intact), scrubbing raw metal parts (where there is no paint or chrome) with my coarse, medium, and fine Sandflex hand blocks, lightly scrubbing the painted, chromed, and finished wood parts with 0000 steel wool and Kramer’s Antique Restorer, cleaning any knurling and the teeth of the gears and pinions with my Dremel and a small wire wheel attachment, adding 3-in-1 oil to oil holes on the main shaft, and generally removing 100+ years of dirt and grease and grime.

What I’m not doing is using a wire wheel or sandblasting the gears and frames to get them down to bare metal so that I can repaint them. I’m not sanding the finish off the wood and re-staining and applying a new coat of finish. I’m not even disassembling the chucks (yet) to give them a complete overhaul. I do not want to try and make them look like brand new versions of the tool; I want them to show you the life they’ve lived thus far. But I want them to be clean. I want them to run smoothly. I want them to make holes again!

In most cases, the drills don’t NEED to be stripped down to bare metal and repainted. This is because I am very selective in the tools I buy. I don’t go to an estate sale and buy every hand tool I see that looks old. For one thing, I don’t buy tools I don’t need. I don’t buy old tools just because they are there. A, I don’t want to collect tools; I want to use tools. B, if I have good quality user tools sitting on a shelf in my basement when I don’t need them, then that means those tools can’t be in someone else’s shelf being put to good use…

Anyway, these drills don’t need to be stripped down because I tried to find drills that had much of their paint intact.

Millers Falls No5 Detail

Millers Falls No5 Detail

None of these soft restorations were photo-documented for me to write up a detailed blog post. My plan was to get a few cleaned up and figure out what I’m doing and then tackle my 1914 Millers Falls No2 with the intention of doing a proper write-up. It is a more desirable version of the common No2, with the elongated crank handle and the guide bearing. It is one of the very few tools I’ve lucked upon at one of the local antique malls, where I usually just fine wrenches and screwdrivers and moulding planes (without the blades, of course).

I know it might seem presumptive of me, but as soon as Finley started showing an interest in working down in the shop with me, I quietly began assembling a small set of tools for him. So not all of these hand drills are mine; I’m not a collector! But… believe it or not, I’m having a lot of fun with them. After I’ve practiced on my own, I might consider picking up a few here and there and cleaning them up to sell or give away to friends or family.

Millers Falls No2 Restored

Millers Falls No2 Restored

The first one I started on was Finley’s No2. It is one of the newer drills I have, being made some time after 1938. But it probably isn’t much newer than that – the guy I bought it from said his grandpa used it and then his dad used it. His love is motocross bikes and he figured he wasn’t ever going to use it, so he thought he would put it in the hands of someone who would. He was excited to hear I was going to clean it up and give it to my son to use in the workshop.

Millers Falls No2

Millers Falls No2

Any time I get a tool from someone who lets me have it for a good price because they know I’m not going to fix it up and sell it, I like to send them pictures of it after it has been restored. He was surprised I actually followed through with my promise to do so (who follows through on their promises anymore, right?) and was floored with how great it looked and worked once I was done. Finley was pretty excited, too.

Going Down The Rabbit Hole...

Going Down The Rabbit Hole…

This was the one drill where I did remove the upper pinion. It wasn’t spinning nearly as well as it should have been, so I picked up a hammer and a drift pin and removed the pin holding the handle in place. And I found I had to remove another pin to get the threaded shaft out to get to the pinion. That was all very nerve-wracking, but after I spent a moment cleaning up the pins, they slid right back into place during re-assembly once I had the pinion working. Now I feel quite confident in doing that again.

Then I worked on my Millers Falls No5. It is another “newer” hand drill (1935 or so). It had some damage to the back of the handle, but, as I said, I left it alone and just focused on making sure it worked properly.

Millers Falls No5 Restored

Millers Falls No5 Restored

The last one I worked on was a Millers Falls No3. I was a little confused at first when I tried to date it using the information on the Old Tool Heaven  website. It had the tear drop side handle from the earliest period, but it had a newer chuck, the newest logo, and the gear was painted red. Then I realized one of the previous owners probably just lost the side handle and replaced it with something that fit. When I looked at it more closely, I realized the side handle is probably rosewood, which means it came off of an older MF No5. (If anyone out there has an older No5 that is missing the detachable rosewood teardrop-shaped side handle and has an unbearable desire to locate one to make their drill 100% original, let me know; maybe we can work something out.)

Millers Falls No3 Restored

Millers Falls No3 Restored

This one was a little different from the other two because I quickly realized most of the chrome was still there! So after cleaning it up with 0000 steel wool and Kramer’s, I pulled out the German metal polish and an old sock and made the old sock black with tarnish.

Millers Falls No3 Chrome

Millers Falls No3 Chrome

I took some pre-restoration pictures of the No2 I’m going to document…

Millers Falls No2, pre-restoration

Millers Falls No2, pre-restoration

MF2AwB 05

Before I do that, though, I might work through one or two more I happen to have but probably won’t keep – they will either be sold or given away. Or I’ll trade up and get rid of my No5; I guess it depends on which one I like the most.

I can see how some guys get addicted to buying old tools. I’m glad I don’t quite have that problem – I seem to be addicted to cleaning old tools up so they can be put back to work. I really DO have a few woodworking projects in various stages of completion. I’ll try to bring those to focus in the near future.



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